Liability Issues in your Youth Ministry Program Catholic Mutual Group 10843 Old Mill Road Omaha, NE 68154 (800) 228-6108
True Life Scenario Larry, a youth leader, takes his inexperienced group into a “hot” river after being told by an outfitter that only experienced canoeists belong on the river that day. Patty (a 15-year old) falls into the cold water when her canoe spills. Patty can’t get back into her canoe and bobs along in the water in her inflated life vest for more than 30 minutes. Her skin looks blue when the leader fishes her out. Everybody laughs and jokes about Patty’s blue face. During the van ride home, Patty just can’t get warm even though they wrap her in blankets. During the ride home, Patty becomes listless and sleepy…still shivering. When they can’t wake her up, they rush to a hospital emergency room. Several hours later, they are shocked to learn Patty has died of hypothermia. What negative consequences will happen to the people and the church involved in Patty’s death?
Negative Consequences… Heartbreak and deep sadness would hammer her family and friends. Grief, sorrow and shock would ravage the youth group and the church. Eventually, anger and blame would be leveled at Larry and the volunteer leader. Personal guilt would weigh heavy on Larry, the volunteer leader and any student or adult who felt responsibility. Most likely, Larry and the church could expect some type of lawsuit related to Patty’s death. Everyone would be changed. One constant would remain. Patty would be gone.
Elements of Negligence Duty Owed Duty Breached Damages Damages are directly caused by breached duty
Common Allegations A key to well-run, safe programs is having a set of policies and procedures. Experts have identified the ten most common safety mistakes in youth programs. Not enough staff Too many kids in the vehicle No time to plan for safety No plan of action to respond to any emergency Students driving No use of seat belts No first aid training or supplies Inadequate paperwork (proper permission/medical forms) Letting a dangerous activity continue (afraid to stop it) Lack of careful supervision (letting kids wander or play around with equipment)
Common Attitudes Toward Safety Nothing bad has happened to us yet… You can’t think of rules for everything… If we have all these safety rules, we won’t have any fun… Relax, God will take care of us… These four attitudes prevent church leaders from providing training or discussing risks inherent in youth ministry. They can sabotage your attempt to protect your youth.
Common Myths Fun vs. Safety? FUN means: Kids like the leader Risk, danger, excitement Yes – Go for it! Never being bored Freedom Saying yes to kids Funny stories to tell Spontaneity Living by faith SAFETY means: Saying no to kids Leader unpopular with kids Rules, caution, boredom No – Don’t try it! Never being alone Supervision Oppressive adult presence Worry and paranoia Fearfulness
Principles of Safety The higher the risk, the greater the supervision required. Know what is dangerous. There is a big difference between perceived danger and actual danger. Plan for the worst-case scenario. Learn to recognize the initial signs of danger. Keep in mind the special needs of the kids in your group. Test it first. Resist the shortcuts. Make the most of your mistakes. Take the “my kid” test. Lead by example.
How well do you know your staff?? No process is fool proof Need to take reasonable and consistent steps to obtain information that will help predict potential dangerous behavior Need to establish standard investigation for each level of leadership Standard should be applied equally without discrimination
Staff Screening (includes volunteers) A written application - Should include the following questions: Have you been convicted of a criminal offense? Will you give us permission to check your criminal record? - Your screening policy must be consistently applied to every applicant to avoid a discrimination suit. Ask for references - At least 3 references are needed to get a good picture of an applicant. Interview the applicant -Have at least 2 people conduct the interview. Make a final decision -Work with a team of people to make a determination on the applicants. Criminal Background Check NO SHORTCUTS!
Staff Training Orientation Session – Need a 2-10 hour basic training and orientation to the ministry. Need to know how the ministry works and the role they play in it. First Aid /Bloodborne Pathogen Training – Enough staff should be certified so that every event can have a trained, certified person in attendance. Identifying Child & Sexual Abuse – Should have training class to learn to recognize the signs of abuse and how to report it. Suicide Prevention Training – Find a social worker to help train you and your staff to respond to suicide threats. Pregnancy, Drug Abuse, and AIDS Training – Some staff could pursue additional training to specialize in these type of problems. Activity Training – Includes training to cover specific activities and events.
Common Mistakes In Volunteer Selection We avoid getting mature volunteers. (Mistakenly think a volunteer has to be young to relate to teenagers and overlook people with years of experience) We take on volunteers too quickly without going through the proper screening and orientation. We are overloaded with young, single college guys who have a natural sexual attraction with the younger girls in the group. We recruit too few women and put them in non-leadership positions. Women tend to be more safety conscious and have plenty to offer when activities are being planned.
Transportation (Arch)Diocesan Transportation Policy? Acceptable Driver Qualifications *Must be 21 years of age or older *Valid driver’s license and satisfactory driving record *Valid and current registration and license plates *Personal Insurance Coverage (100,000 per person/300,000 per occurrence) *Volunteer Drivers Form should be completed by ALL volunteer drivers *Drivers should have a MVR check 11-15 Passenger Van Usage
VOLUNTEER DRIVER FORM Name of Driver: __________________________________________________________ Address: _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________ Drivers License #:_______________________ State Issued:______________________ Year, Make & Model of Vehicle:_____________________________________________ Insurance Company ’ s Name:_____________________________________________ Liability Limits:_________________________________________________________ (Minimum Limits of $100,000/$300,000 Required) Agent ’ s Name:____________________________________________________________ In order to provide for the safety of those we serve, we must ask each volunteer driver to list all accidents or moving violations they have had in the last three years: __________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ Please be aware that as a volunteer driver, your insurance is primary. Thank you for helping us with our transportation needs. Certification I certify that the information given on this form is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I understand that as a volunteer driver, I must be 21 years of age or older, possess a valid driver ’ s license, have the proper and current license and vehicle registration, and have the required insurance coverage in effect on any vehicle. I agree that I will refrain from using a cell phone or any other electronic device while operating my vehicle. ______________________________ _____________________ Volunteer Driver Signature Date
11-15 Passenger Vans Problems Dangerous for transportation Originally designed for cargo transportation NTSB Ruling -11 or more must meet school bus standards -Federal regulation against transporting school-age children Severe injuries in side-impact accidents New study by NHTSA shows these vans to be highly likely to roll over when carrying more passengers Use of inexperienced drivers Solutions Replace with school bus Replace with 8 passenger vans
Volunteer Drivers Volunteer drivers need the careful support of the youth ministry leader so that they can do their best. Such support will generally include the following: Written directions and information * A map and phone number to the destination * Money needed for gas or tolls * Special instructions about the trip Adult Support Depending on the length of the trip, drivers may need other qualified adult drivers traveling with them. These drivers can share driving time, handle directions, and deal with any distractions in the vehicle. Trial Run Make sure every driver has a practice run in the vehicle he/she will drive prior to the actual trip. Emergency plan Prior to the trip, discuss with all drivers your plans for communicating with other drivers or handling emergencies. If you are traveling in a caravan: * What will your signal be if someone needs to stop immediately or at the next rest area? * What should a driver do if he/she becomes separated from the caravan? * How will you handle bad weather or driving conditions? Follow the example The volunteer drivers need to see the one who makes the rules living by the same rules. Uniform observance of speed limits, seat belt requirements, etc., is a practical demonstration to the students of your commitment to safety.
Student Drivers Try to find an insurance agent who would approve of high school students driving other students for youth group activities. THEY DON’T EXIST!!! How do you handle the student who is insistent on driving? Discuss the request to drive with the student’s parent(s). If they approve, instruct the student to meet you at your destination, not at your departure point. No students under your supervision should ride with the teenage driver at any time.
Liability Release Forms Parental/Guardian Consent Form & Liability Waiver This form should be utilized by youth ministry programs for the following types of activities: *Day and overnight field trips *Day and overnight retreats *Youth athletic participation Original copies of this form should be maintained for at least 2 years. As a supplement of the consent form, provide additional information giving details of the activity in which the students will be participating. The more information you can provide, the better. Medical Information This information is included in the Parental/Guardian Consent Form and Liability Waiver. This should be completed and kept on file for all students, adults and volunteers participating in the event. Adult Liability Waiver Should be completed by any adult participating in the event.
FIELD TRIP ADULT LIABILITY WAIVER Each participant, including group leaders, chaperones and drivers must sign this form. RELEASE OF LIABILITY I, ____________________________________________, agree on behalf of myself, my heirs, assigns, executors, and Full Name personal representatives, to hold harmless and defend __________________________________________________, Parish ___________________________________________, its officers, directors, agents, employees, or representatives (Arch) Diocese associated with the field trip from any and all liability claims, loss or damage arising from or in connection with my participation in the field trip. _____________________________________________________________________________ SignatureDate ____________________________________________ Print Name
High Adventure High adventure is voluntarily putting ourselves into situations in the physical environment that challenge our physical and emotional toughness. Ballooning Scuba Diving Bicycling Motorcycling Canoeing Kayaking Hang gliding Rafting Sailing Skiing Skydiving Rock Climbing Trekking Survival Camping
Before Considering High Adventure… Why do I want to involve young people in high adventure? Exposing your young people to the risks of high adventure many be unnecessary. Who is going to lead this high adventure experience? Quality leadership is the most important ingredient for both safety and success in high adventure. What type of young people should participate? Not all activities are appropriate for all young people. What is our true exposure to danger through this event? You must know what risks your students will face and decide if it is worth it. What is the quality of the equipment we will use? High adventure requires top quality equipment. It is not the place for shortcuts or budget constraints. How do my staff and I react when we experience a trial run? Take yourself and your adult leaders (with a qualified guide) on a shortened trial run of the high risk adventure you are considering. What is our insurance coverage for this activity? Make sure that your high risk activity is not excluded and that all young people are protected. Do parents know what is going on? Parents need specifics (verbally and in writing) about what their young people will be experiencing on this trip. The element of “surprise” is a simply a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Better Safe than Sued Written by: Jack Crabtree Group Publishing, Inc. Thanks to Jack Crabtree for allowing the use of this material for our training purposes.